Pharmacists Could Potentially Stop the Opioid Epidemic

Increased education could lead to a decrease in opioid-related abuse and deaths.

Researchers recently discussed how advanced technologies, such as creating pill that produces unpleasant side effects if they are broken, crushed, or injected, are not as effective as education when it comes to stopping opioid abuse.

"Education is the foremost strategy," said study lead researcher Adam M. Kaye, PharmD, FASCP, FCPhA. "We must educate primary care providers, surgeons, pharmacists and other health professionals, as well as patients. That education must take place prior to the starting point of opioid therapy -- and it needs to be independent of the pharmaceutical industry."

The article, published in Current Pain and Headache Reports, discusses how the opioid epidemic is growing and was responsible for 28,647 deaths in 2014, triple the amount of opioid-related deaths in 2000. Approximately 90% of patients who survive an opioid overdose continue to abuse the drugs.

The researchers also said that physical barriers, sequestered aversive agents, and sequestered opioid antagonists have been developed to stop opioid abuse, but may not be as effective as other methods.

According to the researchers, the first 2 strategies could help patients who did not intentionally crush or chew the drugs, but these approaches are not likely to stop intentional abusers. The last strategy could lead to abrupt withdrawal for patients already addicted to opioids.

The FDA has recently moved to require additional opioid education and pain management training for healthcare teams, including prescribers and pharmacists.

"Pharmacists have a big responsibility for cutting down opioid abuse and deaths, whether it's Prince or other celebrities, or the guy down the street," Dr Kaye concluded. "We have to be part of primary education efforts."